The plane that crashed in Hamilton Township Sept. 20 passed inspection in February, its pilot had cleared his mandatory medical examination in July, and the weather was clear enough to fly without needing instruments, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report.

The report did not identify an obvious cause for the crash that killed aviator Anthony Kelly, 44, of Sewell, Gloucester County. Kelly worked as an air traffic controller at Atlantic City International Airport.

Instead the report described a seemingly normal flight that started at around 4:51 p.m. at Cross Keys Airport and ended 13 minutes later in a mile-long debris field across Hamilton Township’s Laureldale section.

The NTSB wrote it has retained the ruined plane for further investigation.

Kelly’s plane was an aviation enthusiast-built Vans RV-7A and had been used about 461 hours, the NTSB wrote. This is a fraction of its expected lifespan.

The NTSB said radar showed the plane heading southeast at around 6,500 feet, generally following south of the Atlantic City Expressway.

It turned right to the southeast, then rapidly lost altitude, while reversing direction and disappearing from radar at about 300 feet. The report said witnesses reported seeing the airplane traveling northwesterly while “pieces” of it fell to the ground.

Investigators found three main debris areas when they arrived. The first area held the lower half of the rudder. The second included a number of pieces that had apparently fallen off of the plane, including the cockpit canopy, left wingtip and the tail, which was found on top of a tree.

The main part of the plane body remained attached until it struck the top of a tree, fell upside down to the forest floor, and burst into flame.

The NTSB reported Kelly had flown approximately 400 hours, 85 hours of which was over the past six months.

Contact Derek Harper:

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.